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on deck: grizmatik at basslights, hampton, va

6 Dec

For the past few years, both Griz and Gramatik have been at the top of my (and many other EDM fans’) list of favorite funky fresh DJs. Both had a flair for the fawnk, which is always a welcome respite from the deluge of bass-heavy DJs making their rounds on the internets.

Let’s start with Gramatik. He’s repped by Pretty Lights record label, and is arguably the most legit DJ in their lineup. For me, at least, Gramatik lends credibility to the Pretty Lights label, rather than the label lending credibility to Gramatik. After all, I believe Gramatik had already released his wildly successful “Street Bangerz Vol. 1″ by the time he signed with Pretty Lights Music, and his sound was already well established from the get-go. Despite his Slovenian roots, Gramatik has a solid grasp on American jazz, blues, and funk that he weaves throughout his mixes, which meander without getting dull.

Griz, on the other hand, is a bit less of a veteran. In fact, he didn’t drop his first full album until September 2012 (after a strong presence on ze blogs for some time), but the result was worth the wait. Griz gets down with the funky stuff too, but his mixes are a little dirtier and bass heavy than Gramatik’s. He also incorporates a bit more soul, which definitely contributes to the toned-down feel of his stuff, even though the sounds are intense.

But then- THEN – came the collaboration that surpasses the sum of it’s parts: Grizmatik. That’s right- this fall, these two wunderkins teamed up, but their heads and tables together, and dropped some supa fresh ish on us this fall. Their collab, with the appropriately mishmashed title “Digital Liberation Is Mad Freedom” (i.e., Griz’ Mad Liberation plus Gramatik’s #digitalfreedom), is the most exciting team work of 2012. I’m always impressed whenever two extremely talented solo musicians are able to produce something together that sounds seamless- it doesn’t sound like either one was trying to push their sound in front of the other. Rather, the resulting tracks are a perfect blend of what I love about Griz and what I love about Gramatik, all in one nice musical package.

The two have only done limited performances together as a duo, which makes me especially exciting for Basslights, the upcoming electro extravaganza in Hampton, VA on 12/28-12/29. The lineup doesn’t expressly list “Grizmatik,” but both artists are performing solo- and I can’t help but assume they’ll be hitting us with some epic tag teaming during the two day festival. Not to mention that they’ll be sharing the stage with oh, you know, just Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, A-Trak, and Big G. Cotdamn. Cheers to peeping New Years Eve a few days early.


on deck: kishi bashi, “151a”

29 Nov

In a rare move for me, I’m going to keep this super brief. Ultimately, I just want to tell you guys about a show for which I just purchased tickets, and the awesome music that drove me to drop those bucks.

The show in question is for Kishi Bashi, formerly of Of Montreal fame. I’ve been an Of Montreal fan for a long time (though not quite a fanatic, as many people are). Thus, I started following Kishi Bashi when he toured with the troupe of musicians that made up the circus act that is an Of Montreal show- he was the violin protege that often stole the show. Kishi Bashi always stood out from the group, and I don’t think any Of Montreal fans are surprised to see him killing it in his solo career.

As much as I like Of Montreal, after listening to Kishi Bashi’s debut solo effort 151a, I can’t help but jump for joy that he decided to leave the group. In short, I’m in love. His roots as a classically trained musician show through in the complexity of the songs, but he also incorporates so many other genres and song structures (jazz, swing, loop-heavy indie pop, etc) into a weird-but-it-works smorgasbord. Comparisons to Andrew Bird and Animal Collective are well-deserved.

To understand the true craftsmanship involved in this album, look no further than his performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk series. NPR’s intro states, “K Ishibashi is a master of building his music from the ground up, from live violin loops to layered singing to beatboxing, in order to create pocket symphonies steeped in classical music and 21st-century pop. He brings that ingenuity and songcraft to the Tiny Desk at the NPR Music offices.”

This is high praise from NPR, and the stripped down format of the concert really brings that testimony home.

Check out the Tiny Desk performance, or start with the clip below. Then, snag tickets to see him at the 930 Club in February. Why is February so far away?

Kishi Bashi, “Bright Whites”

two bars three stars/on deck: thinkSPEAK at rock n roll hotel

2 Aug

I attended a pretty neat new music event a few weeks ago, but sadly it only made it into my Twitter feed and not the blog: the Flashband Summer Showcase at Half Street Fairgrounds on July 14. The concept was simple: a bunch of DC musicians got together, threw their names in a hat, and formed impromptu bands. These “flashbands” had one month to get together, write music, rehearse, and prepare for a showdowncase.

It’s awesome to see how the bands respond to this challenge- you can tell that some threw it together at the last minute, some composed  and perfected multiple original songs, and one band just decided to play five LCD Soundsystem covers. I wasn’t complaining.

But sometimes, these flashbands can become something more. What if, in the course of one month’s preparation, you stumble upon something golden? You wouldn’t want to just throw that progress away, would you?

Such is the case with thinkSPEAK, a DC band that debuted at the Flashband showcase and hasn’t stopped there. After closing their Flashband performance with an indisputable hit single, “Tiller,” the band refined, recorded, and posted the single on their Soundcloud page. Next up? An opening performance at Rock n Roll Hotel tonight.

Cheers to flashbands that aren’t fleeting and good ol’ fashioned toe-tapping singles.

“Tiller,” Think Speak

on my boombox: bonde do role & major lazer

1 Aug

The title of this post might read “on my boombox,” but truthfully this could fall under a couple of categories- so, COMBO POST TIME!

Anyway, artist of choice today: Bondo do Rolo. You’re already intrigued, I know. Brazilian names are intriguing.

But thankfully, these guys deserve the attention they automatically garner for their exotic roots. Bonde do Role is bringing favela funk music straight from Rio de Janeiro to the U.S., and I couldn’t be more stoked about it.

What is favela, you ask? Don’t worry, I wouldn’t know either, if it weren’t for NPR. But sometime in fall 2010, I listened to an NPR piece about this Brazilian dance music (also called “baile funk” or “funk carioca”) taking the world by storm, and I fell in love with what I heard. Ever since, I’ve hoped favela would creep out of Rio to infiltrate mainstream and indie dance music in the U.S.- rest assured, it has, and in large part thanks to these guys.
Bondo do Role got their big break in 2006 when mega-producer Diplo found the band’s Myspace page (nothing says 2006 like a Myspace page, am I right?). Ever since, their music has subtly made waves by being featured in numerous commercials, games (such as FIFA), movie previews, etc- it’s possible you’ve listened to these Brazilian party people without evening knowing it.

This summer, I’ve renewed my appreciation for Bonde do Role due to some choice collaborations and remixes that have popped up across the internet; one of them, “Bang” featuring Das Racist, I featured on RwR’s July playlist. This time, I’m featuring their work with the same man who discovered them, Diplo.

See, Diplo is not only Bonde do Role’s producer and a successful solo artist, but he is also one part of the DJ duo Major Lazer. The crazy-awesomeness of Major Lazer’s outrageous, raunchy, Jamaican dancehall-influenced electro music deserves a post of its own, but rest assured it’s epic. For now, just be excited about the below track that combines the favela force of Bonde do Role with their mentor and DJ extraordinaire, Major Lazer.

Oh, and the reason I said this post was a combo? It could also be an “on deck” post, because Major Lazer is going to blow the lid off of U Street Music Hall on Thursday, October 25. Oh. hell. yes.

Are you dancing yet?

Major Lazer, “Get Free” (Bondo do Role remix)

on deck: nighttime adventure society at black cat (album release party)

27 Jul

A truly amazing thing about DC summer is that here, unlike most other places, you can walk into a packed, sweaty club, and actually feel refreshed because it is STILL cooler there than outside. Cotdamn.

But this weekend, I’m making a pledge: I will not complain about the heat. I will not complain about the heat. Let’s move on.

In other exciting news, I am checking out a DC band on Saturday night. A band that has one of my favorite band names in recent memory: The Nighttime Adventure Society. Doesn’t that instantly make you think of a bunch of cool, smart bookclub friends who like to go out and get drunk together and make mischief? I certainly do.

NAS (also a great band acronym) plays a style of folk pop that reminds me of certain bands who made me fall in love with folk in high school- namely, Rilo Kiley, Broken Social Scene, and everything else that involved Feist. And no, I’m not just drawing similarities between NAS and Feist because of the presence of a red-headed female lead singer, though it doesn’t hurt the comparison.

I wouldn’t miss this album release at Black Cat this weekend. WOOT local music. WOOT red headed lead singers.

Nighttime Adventure Society, “Older Boys”

on deck: alex winston at gibson guitar show room

25 Jul

One great thing about being a fan of electro music is that, on occasion, a hot remix will open your eyes to not one but two new artists: both the DJ who remixed the track and the artist responsible for the original work. For instance, I would likely not know Ellie Goulding if not for Bassnectar, or Yelle if not for Madeon. The excitement of discovering two new artists in one track is the ultimate audiophile satisfaction- two birds, one stone, ya know?

Such is the case with indie pop princess Alex Winston. I fell in love with her single “Sister Wife” via the remix by Star Slinger back in 2010, and it’s been a permanent fixture on my playlists ever since. I waited patiently for her debut album King Con, and upon finally getting my hands on it in 2012, I was not disappointed.

Winston’s formula is not overly complicated. Her songs, for the most part, are straight-up pop gems; but, she has this quirk, sing-songy voice that fits perfectly against the bubblegum tunes and keeps her sound fresh. She also somehow manages to infuse a lot of personality and brightness into all of her music, without coming off as forced or obnoxious. The fact that she’s a multi-talented instrumentalist (she played all guitar, piano, and drums on her debut EP) doesn’t hurt either.

I was sad to miss Alex’ first DC performance at an All Things Gold event in April (I was in Berlin or something, I don’t know), so I’m stoked that I have a second chance this week at this Thursday’s New Noise Event at the Gibson Guitar Showroom. Be there or be square.

“Velvet Elvis”

“Sister Wife” (Star Slinger remix)

on deck: el-p, killer mike, and mr. muthafuckin exquire at rock n roll hotel

27 Jun

As much as I love both live music and rap, I’m more hesitant to buy tickets to rap shows than other genres. For one, they run notoriously late and are often unstructured and disorganized. But, more importantly, not all rappers make their name on live performances- the strength of their latest mixtape is more important.

Therefore, it’s especially telling that I would purchase $30 ticket to a rap show on a Sunday night. I’m willing to risk a truly miserable Monday morning for this one:  El-P, Killer Mike, and Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire at Rock n Roll Hotel on July 15.

For long time rap fans, you might think of El-P first and foremost as a producer, second as a label owner, and only third as a performer. However, with his most recent solo release Cancer 4 Cure being hailed as one of the year’s best hip-hop albums, that characterization may change.

It’s tough to describe El-P’s crazy, convoluted, futuristic-robot-meets-Brooklyn-rap-wiz-kid aesthetic without sounding crazy yourself. But rest assured, El-P perfects this aesthetic on Crazy 4 Cure. It’s half aggression, half chest-thumping beats. Beats so dirty that El-P once again proves why dubstep DJs should all credit him as early inspiration. El-P is all at once verbally assaulting his listeners, while cutting loose on tracks that could serve as “futuristic workout anthems for robot soldiers.” (Well-said, Pitchfork).

Equally as exciting, El-P will be performing with two of his most talented cohorts: Killer Mike and Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire. Killer Mike’s latest album, the El-P-produced R.A.P. Music, might even surpass Cancer 4 Cure in my list of “best rap albums of 2012.” Mike is lyrically dexterous with a strong, forceful voice- which is necessary to back up the heavy political themes he tackles on certain tracks, such as “Reagan.”

Check out the tracks below. Buy a ticket. And maybe take it easy that Saturday night.

El-P, “Drones Over Brooklyn”

Killer Mike featuring El-P, “Butane”

Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire, “Huzzah”